Douglas Messerli

The Secret Saint


for Ray DiPalma

What to do with vestige-what
to say better than telling
something so hallucinatory and skeptical,
what in linen and hidden within
the chest of misgivings, if the bitter experience
is rendered in a smile of murmurs,
adjacent strategies that transform remoteness
into an incisive summary or regret? What
if the hand that extends into the desert
of the would-be saint's fame, the tall
narrow tomb into which he had been
shut, cracks in the expression of so many
documents not even dreamed of
yet, the fame spread merely through
the desertion of the effective, so effective
arrangement of something and something
surrounded by something else, were not
to say where it had come from or where
it might have possibly gone? And yet,
wrapped in felt. Whose hands had surrounded
it, whose had laid the body upon
the material of its nonexistence, whose
had rolled the thighs of the would-be
saint into the linen, the felt, felt
the flesh, the telling, hallucinatory and skeptical
as truth is always, transformed such remoteness
into such an incisive summary that is always death?
A lover? disciple? stranger? wife?
What to do with vestige, the bones
the cryptic mention of these attributes, what?

Then. Not to say. Then, from base
line to horizon-from the effective arrangement
of something and something else, certainly
hallucinatory and cryptic as the attributes
of the secret saint were certain to have been,
when having contracted fever and died,
to remember, then how? All things
being relative and excluded by the bitter experience
of those who had seen the smile, murmured
among themselves of its skeptical implications: then
how to still roll the body into what was felt,
necessarily, to be the need to properly bury it-
bare bones now-then, as I seem to recall, put it
into the crypt? Then. What to do
with vestige-what?

August 14, 1998, Los Angeles